Building a high-performing team is the largest challenge entrepreneurs face.

Your organization will live and die by the people you bring onboard.

It can be easy to assume this just means your leadership or management -- that all the little roles and parts of your company don't need as much effort or attention to fill. But every swing your employees make, they make together. It all adds up to the momentum and direction that drives your business.

It also can create the friction or issues that can destroy you.

We've built our entire organization at Simple Mills without the help of a recruiter. Recruiters make 20 - 25% of first hire salary - if you're a company with a payroll of $2mm, this can save you $500k. Not only that, but when you work without the help of recruiters, you can end up with better fits.

The formula we use:

Use the right tools.

Our (not so) secret tool for recruiting is LinkedIn. We use LinkedIn Recruiter Lite, which comes with a whole host of search functions - everything from how long candidates have been at their current role, how many years' experience, industry, past or current companies, company suggestions, title, job function - all of these are filters. This enables you to be super precise and targeted with your search. We've tried other tools but found this works best.

Get support.

Use a hiring manager to help you search. I got lucky and my first hire (ever!) was someone whose background was in HR. Jenna today conducts every one of our candidate searches. Each search will take 8+ hours before you're even reaching out to candidates. The great thing about Jenna is she knows our company inside and out - she knows what we're passionate about and what makes people successful in roles at Simple Mills. This means she can identify the perfect candidates for our company.

Identify your target.

We define our search boundaries by the traits that we need our hire to have and we are super specific. We create a thesis of what we might be looking. For VP of Operations, we wanted a strong, detailed-oriented leader who was process-focused and has worked in CPG plants. Because of that, we had a thesis that we were looking for someone in a current operations role at a large CPG company, 10+ years into their career, located in Chicago, background with a large consulting firm, and an interest in natural food. These are all things you can search for using LinkedIn's search functions. And guess what, we found Peter, and he's a great fit! You unfortunately can't be this specific with recruiters.

Refine.

Not everyone that turns up in the search results will be a fit. This is what will make up the bulk of your time - reviewing candidates. For our key roles, I usually only ended up with a few profiles that were a fit and often had to revise my search criteria a little bit (for example, shifting what title I was looking for, or what previous company they had been employed by). You're first thesis likely won't be right, but this learning is valuable because it helps you narrow in on what you're looking for, meanwhile learning how other companies are structured in your industry.

Reach out.

Who reaches out depends on the role. For VP level roles, I reach out to show our interest. For other roles, our part-time hiring manager reaches out. LinkedIn allows you to attach a job description, which we do. Don't just reach out to everyone - be very discriminate because you want to be authentic in your outreach when you say you think the person could be a good fit. For our leadership positions, we typically only reach out to 4-5 individuals, so if you get a message from is, count yourself lucky!

This process is great because it captures people who otherwise wouldn't show up in your process - or who may not be looking. It doesn't just help save on recruiter fees either. Some recruiters will come back later and poach your people. Or they'll pitch candidates who aren't a fit because it's somebody already in their network. An internal recruitment strategy results in greater control for you - and people who stay with you long term.

Published on: Apr 21, 2017